Wednesday, December 29, 2010
I've been doing some internet research on my family history. It may only be of interest to a tiny few, so I've created a separate blog.
Here is the link
And here's the picture that started the quest
Friday, December 24, 2010
It's been very cold in the UK in the last few weeks. Indeed it could be argued that as Winter didn't officially begin until Dec 21st, we have witnessed the coldest Autumn since records began.
And it's not just the Northern hemishere. Australia has just had snowfall during their summer!
OK, it's weather. And they keep telling me that weather is not climate.
Europeans have climate. The British have weather.
We're an island off the coast of mainland Europe that is washed by the Gulf Stream, which means our climate is generally warmer and wetter than mainland Europe. It also means that our weather is more variable than the mainland.
Being variable, it gives us British something to talk about.
So why does a few inches at most of snow cause the UK to grind to a halt, (although the BBC insists on using centimetres despite the UK official measurements being in miles, feet and inches)?
Why is it that we are as unprepared today for bad weather as we were three years ago?
Why is it that local authorities have bought less salt and grit than they did last year?
Why is it that Heathrow Airport closed because they didn't have enough snow-clearing and de-icing machinery?
Where do they get the information to base their buying requirements?
The Met Office.
Compare and contrast with London's Transport system. They've had little disruption, apart from re-routing some buses away from hillier routes.
They didn't use the Met Office predictions.
Can you see a picture emerging?
Here's a link to an interesting article
Here's some of the text
"The Global Warming Policy Foundation has called on the Government to set up an independent inquiry into the winter advice it received by the Met Office and the renewed failure to prepare the UK for the third severe winter in a row.
"The current winter fiasco is no longer a joke as the economic damage to the British economy as a result of the country's ill-preparedness is running at £1bn a day and could reach more than £15 billion," said Dr Benny Peiser, the GWPF's Director.
"It would appear that the Met Office provided government with rather poor if not misleading advice and we need to find out what went wrong. Lessons have to be learned well in advance of the start of next year's winter so that we are much better prepared if it is severe again," Dr Peiser said.
And here's a few of the questions the GWPF would like answered
1. Why did the Met Office publish estimates in late October showing a 60 per cent to 80 per cent chance of warmer-than-average temperatures this winter? What was the scientific basis of this probabilistic estimate?
2. Has the October prediction by the Met Office that this winter would be mild affected planning for this winter? If so, what is the best estimate of how much this has cost the country?
3. Last year, the Met Office predicted a 65% chance that winter will be milder than normal. Has the Met Office subsequently explained what went wrong with its computer modelling?
8. Although the Met Office stopped sending its 3-month forecasts to the media, it would appear that this service is still available to paying customers, the Government and Local Authorities for winter planning. What was their advice, in September/October, for the start of winter 2010?
10. Is it appropriate that the chairman of the Met Office is a member, or a former member of climate pressure groups or carbon trading groups?
13. What plans has the government to privatise the Met Office?
Friday, December 10, 2010
This is my list of the top ten people who most influenced popular music from its birth in 1950 until machines took over in around 1985. It's entirely subjective, and you're free to add your own comments
1. Les Paul.
Les Paul has to be at number 1. As well as being the link bewteen the old and the new (he jammed with Django and Charlie Christian in the early 40s, had his own radio show, became Bing Crosby's musical director before singlehandedly inventing every aspect of recording that we take for granted today.
Multi track recording- Les Paul
Vari-speed recording- Les Paul
Sound on sound recording- Les Paul
Mixing desks- Les Paul
The solid electric guitar- Les Paul
You get the idea.
2. Ahmed Ertegun
He founded Atlantic records in 1950. He was there at the beginning of Rhythm & Blues. His achievements are too great to be listed, but he signed Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Led Zepellin and was a major player throughout his long career. He died after falling at a Rolling Stones show in 2006. A giant.
3. Sam Phillips.
Owned Sun Records. Recorded Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. Say no more.
4. Jac Holzman
Founded Elektra Records in 1950. Discovered Judy Collins. Elektra Records had the best roster of artists in the mid- late 60s including Love, The Doors, Tim Buckley and the Incredible String band. He went on to sign The Stooges and Harry Chapin. When I was a teenager in the late 60s, most of my record collection comprised LPs on the Elektra label.
His protege Judy Collins discovered Leonard Cohen and gave him his first gig. Judy became Steven Stills lover and was the inspiration for "Suite- Judy Blue Eyes".
5. George Martin
Not just the fifth Beatle, but a brilliant composer and arranger. He also produced Jeff Beck's album "Blow by Blow", which was the first instrumental album to sell more than a million copies.
6. Joe Boyd
Started off by inviting long forgotten blues artists like Howling Wolf and John Lee Hooker to play at his college in the early 60s. Became European tour manager for US blues and jazz musicians. Was stage manager at the 1965 Newport Folk festival when Dylan went electric and changed folk music forever. Became UK A&R man for Elektra Records and signed the Incredible String Band. Opened the first underground music venue UFO where the house band was Pink Floyd. Produced Pink Floyd's first single. Discovered Fairport Convention and Richard Thompson. Single handedly created English Folk Rock. Discovered Nick Drake and Vashti Bunyan. Went into films and produced the soundtrack to "Deliverance". "Duelling banjos" is his only number 1, but he hated it so much he refused to have his name on the credits. And on and on.
7. Andrew Loog Oldham
Created the Rolling Stones. Created the cult of the pop music manager. Created Immediate Records. Created the idea of living your life as if you were in a film, with a music soundtrack playing constantly (he wanted to be Laurence Harvey). Disowned by the Stones who have tried to erase him from their official history, but love him or hate him, you can't ignore him.
8. Joe Meek
Created the most amazing sounding records using home made equipment in a flat above a shop in North London. Openly homosexual at a time when it was still against the law, he broke every "rule" of music recording. His records still sound great today, while his distractors are long forgotten.
9. Quincy Jones
Musician, composer, arranger and record producer (and all round good guy). His first band was with high school chum Ray Charles on piano while played trumpet.
His arrangements include the swing version of "Fly me to the moon" as recorded by Frank Sinatra (the original was a waltz from the 1920s)
Film scores, hit songs, you name it- he's done it. He has been nominated for a Grammy Award no less than 79 times, winning an astonishing 29 times.
He's produced for Frank Sinatra but is best known for producing Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album, which has sold 110 million copies worldwide. If anyone deserved the title of legend, it's Quincy Jones.
10. Cass Elliot
Last but not least, we have Cass Elliot. Her life was cut short just as she was entering a new phase of her life. She had a great voice and sold a lot of records both as a solo artist and as a member of the Mamas and the Papas.
She's in my list because of her gift of hospitality. She was a great hostess, and her house in Laurel Canyon was a magnet for musicians. Legend had it that David Crosby, Steven Stills and Graham Nash met at Cass Elliot's and sang together for the first time. Neil Young was always there. Joni Mitchell met Graham Nash at Cass's place. It can be argued that the whole West Coast music scene had its roots in Cass's home. It may have taken David Geffen's Asylum Records to bring the music to a worldwide audience, but it all began at Cass's.
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
This is a true story.
About six weeks ago I put a pair of JBL bass bins on Ebay. We'd bought them for a PA rig, but hadn't enough funds or work to complete the project. Chris' VAT was due, so we reluctantly put them up for sale on a "Buy it now" for £800.
Tuesday Nov 2nd was an eventful day for me. First of all I got the all clear from the Haematology Clinic and decided to go back to work the next day. Later that evening I had a call from someone called Barry to tell me that he'd just bought my speakers.
These are big bulky items. I purposely advertised that they were "buyer collect" only. When I checked my emails I saw that I'd received an email from Paypal saying that they'd received £800. The email text says quite clearly that I could send the items. I arranged with ny buyer that he would send a courier to collect the speakers the next day, and sure enough I had a call to say they were on their way, so I left work and met the courier at home.
No problems so far. Everything was exactly as I'd experienced many times before. There was one slight niggle. The speakers were to be delivered to Greenwich rather than Slough (where "Barry" lived). I only knew this because the postcode that he gave to the courier wasn't recognised by her satnav. As luck would have it, he rang me and I was able to give my phone to the courier and she took the full address.
She drove off and I went back to work.
Two days later I had an email from Paypal advising me that my payment had been frozen while they investigated a complaint from the real Barry, who said that someone had hacked his Paypal account and used it to buy a number of items including my speakers.
I'd like to say that Paypal were most helpful, but I'd be lying.
Their useless automated system doesn't allow for any deviation from the script.
I had to supply proof of postage. How could I? The item was collected.
I contacted the person whose account was hacked. He was adamant he hadn't bought the item.
I contacted Ebay and told them. Their useless automated system lurched into action.
A couple of days later and I had discovered that my buyer had registered about four hours before buying my speakers. He'd used a false name, incomplete address and spurious telephone number.
He hacked into Paypal to pay for my speakers and got away with it. There is no address for the guy, his phone number is false and Ebay protection only applies when you buy goods, not when you sell them.
Paypal tried to tell me that the email saying that I'd received £800 didn't come from them. So how can they explain the £800 in my Paypal account?
They refused to accept any blame. They have returned the money to the real Barry, but I'm out of pocket to the tune of £800 plus my Ebay listing and selling fees.
Both the real Barry and myself are victims. He got his money back but I didn't.
It appears that sellers on Ebay and Paypal have no protection from thieves who steal your goods.
My Paypal account is overdrawn and I can't buy or sell on Ebay until that's rectified.
My advice to anyone selling on Ebay is to insist on cash only.
I may never use it again.
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
This has been around the internet for a while, but I think it's good, as worth passing on.
The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed on from one generation to the next, says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.
However, in modern business, because of the heavy investment factors to be taken into consideration, often other strategies have to be tried with dead horses, including the following:
1. Buying a stronger whip.
2. Changing riders.
3. Threatening the horse with termination.
4. Appointing a committee to study the horse.
5. Arranging to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses.
6. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.
7. Reclassifying the dead horse as living-impaired.
8. Change the form so that it reads: “This horse is not dead”.
9. Hire outside contractors to ride the dead horse.
10. Harness several dead horses together for increased speed.
11. Donate the dead horse to a recognized charity, thereby deducting its full original cost.
12. Providing additional funding to increase the horse’s performance.
13. Do a time management study to see if the lighter riders would improve productivity.
14. Declare that a dead horse has lower overhead and therefore performs better.
15. Promote the dead horse to a supervisory position